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J. R. R. Tolkien
- Study Guide
The Hobbit is a novel by J. R. R. Tolkien that was that was first published in 1937 .
Read one-minute Sparklet summaries, the detailed chapter-by-chapter Summary & Analysis, or the Full Book Summary of The Hobbit .
- Sparklet Chapter Summaries
Summary & Analysis
- Chapters 2 & 3
- Chapters 4 & 5
- Chapters 6 & 7
- Chapters 8 & 9
- Chapters 10 & 11
- Chapters 12 & 13
- Chapters 14 & 15
- Chapters 16 & 17
- Chapters 18 & 19
- Full Book Summary
See a complete list of the characters in The Hobbit and in-depth analyses of Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf, and Thorin Oakenshield.
- Character List
- Bilbo Baggins
- Thorin Oakenshield
Here's where you will find analysis of the main themes, motifs, and symbols in The Hobbit .
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- Important Quotes Explained
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- Full Book Quiz
- Chapters 2-3
- Chapters 4-5
- Chapters 6-7
- Chapters 8-9
- Chapters 10-11
- Chapters 12-13
- Chapters 14-15
- Chapters 16-17
- Chapters 18-19
- Plot Overview
- Analysis of Major Characters
- Themes, Motifs & Symbols
Get ready to ace your The Hobbit paper with mini-essays, a sample A+ student essay, and suggested essay topics.
- Sample A+ Essay: How The Hobbit Fits and Doesn't Fit Epic Traditions
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Go further in your study of The Hobbit with background information about J. R. R. Tolkien and the novel, as well as suggestions for further reading.
- J. R. R. Tolkien and The Hobbit Background
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The Hobbit SparkNotes Literature Guide
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Chapter 1 opens as the wizard Gandalf visits the hobbit Bilbo Baggins and invites him to join in an adventure. Bilbo declines, reluctant to leave the safety and comfort of his hobbit-hole. The next day, he is visited by dwarves who believe Bilbo can be of use to them in their journey to the Lonely Mountain to reclaim their ancestral treasure, now in the possession of Smaug the dragon. Bilbo realizes that Gandalf had represented him to the dwarves as a burglar. He reluctantly agrees to go, but he changes his mind the next morning. Gandalf urges him to join them, however, and they depart — a band of fourteen.
Chapters 2 through 10 depict Bilbo, Gandalf, and the dwarves traveling out of the hobbit-lands toward the Lonely Mountain far to the east. As the landscape becomes less hospitable and the group faces hunger, bad weather, and attacks from hostile creatures, Bilbo often thinks fondly of home and questions his decision to come on this journey. In the Lone-lands, the travelers encounter trolls who capture the dwarves and tie them up in sacks, planning to roast and eat them later. They are rescued by Gandalf and Bilbo, who produces a key he found nearby. The key unlocks the trolls' secret cave, where the travelers find gold and weapons, to which they help themselves. They travel on to the valley of Rivendell at the edge of the Wild, and stay at the home of Elrond, a hospitable elf leader. Elrond translates the runes on the swords that Gandalf and Thorin Oakenshield, king of the dwarves, took from the trolls' cave; they are ancient swords called Orcrist and Glamdring that come from dragon plunder or the Goblin-wars. Elrond also translates Thorin's map, which clarifies the importance of Durin's Day, the first day of the dwarves' New Year.. After two weeks, Bilbo, Gandalf, and the dwarves resume their journey. Approaching the Misty Mountains, they take shelter from a storm in a cave that turns out to be the Great Goblin's cavern. The Goblins capture Bilbo and his companions and take their ponies. Using Glamdring, Gandalf kills the Great Goblin and frees Bilbo and the dwarves. The travelers try to find their way out of the cave as the Goblins retreat, but Bilbo falls on his way out and loses consciousness.
When Bilbo regains consciousness and tries to make his way out of the cave, he finds a ring that he absentmindedly pockets. This incident, in Chapter 5, marks a dramatic moment in his adventures, for the ring confers powers of invisibility on whomever wears it. Bilbo encounters old Gollum, a slimy, murderous creature who kills and eats Goblins and others who stray into the cave. They exchange riddles, and Gollum discovers that Bilbo has the ring, which is Gollum's favorite possession. At the same time, Bilbo puts on the ring and discovers its magical power. Pursuing the invisible Bilbo, Gollum inadvertently shows him the way out of the cave. Bilbo has the opportunity to kill Gollum, but decides his invisibility is an unfair advantage and, instead, leaps over his head through the mouth of the cave.
After he is outside, Bilbo plans to go back and rescue his friends but finds they have escaped, too. He tells his tale and gains their respect. Then they all run away from the Mountains, fearful of the Goblins. They are chased up into trees by Wargs, menacing wild wolves. Gandalf chases the Wargs away, but the Wargs soon return with Goblins and try to smoke Bilbo and the dwarves out of the trees by setting fire to the forest. Bilbo and the dwarves are rescued by eagles, who fly them to their nest. After spending the night in safety, they resume their travels east and Gandalf takes them to the house of Beorn, the skin-changer, who outfits them for the next leg of their journey, through the forest of Mirkwood. At the end of Chapter 7, Gandalf leaves them at the edge of Mirkwood, warning them not to stray from the path. Gandalf does not reappear until the Battle of Five Armies near the end of the book.
Bilbo and the dwarves travel through the forest and use a boat to cross an enchanted lake. They rescue Bombur, one of the thirteen dwarves, from a fall into the lake. Hungry, they approach a party of feasting elves, but to no avail. Bilbo is captured by a spider, but fights his way free with the sword he took from the trolls; he names it Sting. Wearing the ring of invisibility, he frees the dwarves who have been bound in spiders' webs and reveals to them the secret of the ring. At the end of Chapter 8, Bilbo and the dwarves find that Thorin has been captured by elves, and in Chapter 9, all the dwarves are captured and thrown into the dungeon under the palace of the Elvenking. Bilbo escapes this fate because he is wearing the ring that makes him invisible, and he wanders around the Elvenking's palace until he has developed a plan to free the dwarves. He hides them in empty wine barrels that are dropped through the floor of the palace and float down the river to Esgaroth or Lake-town. Bilbo and the dwarves spend some time in Lake-town, a town of men, but then move on and disembark near the Lonely Mountain.
Chapter 11 depicts the encounter with Smaug the dragon, the object of the journey. The travelers can see the door to Smaug's lair in the side of the Lonely Mountain, but they can't open it until Bilbo suddenly understands the clues in Thorin's map. On Durin's Day, using the key from Thorin's grandfather, Bilbo enters the Lonely Mountain. He sees Smaug the dragon sitting on the treasure hoard and, despite great fear, engages him in conversation and emerges with a cup he has stolen from the hoard. At this point, Bilbo becomes, in effect, the leader of the group. He re-enters Smaug's lair and steals the Arkenstone, the precious gem of the hoard. In a vengeful rage, Smaug comes out of his lair and destroys the town of Esgaroth. Bard, a Lake-town archer, kills Smaug.
At this point, in Chapter 14, various groups begin to converge on the Lonely Mountain, because the treasure Smaug had guarded is now up for grabs. Thorin refuses to ally with Bard or the elves, and Bilbo gives Bard the Arkenstone to use in bargaining with Thorin. Gandalf reappears. The Battle of Five Armies ensues — dwarves, men, and elves fighting against Goblins and Wargs. After the battle, Bilbo is taken to see Thorin, who is dying. He is buried with Orcrist and the Arkenstone; his inheritance, the hoard, is divided. Bilbo leaves with Gandalf, Elvenking, and Beorn to go back to the hobbit-lands. They stay with Beorn over Yule-tide and return to Elrond in the spring. When Bilbo arrives home, he finds that his house and its contents are being auctioned, because he is presumed dead. He recovers most of his possessions and leads an eccentric life, sometimes visited by his travel companions.
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J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit Chapter Summary - Our Journey Begins
Exploring the hobbit, chapter 1: an unexpected party.
Bilbo is a comfort loving hobbit, like most, although he has Tookish ancestors who had more adventuresome lives. When Gandalf the wizard offers to send him adventuring, he refuses, and invites him to tea to change the subject. Gandalf leaves and Bilbo forgets.
Chapter 2: Roast Mutton
Gandalf awakens Bilbo and sends him off to join the dwarves, without any luggage. The journey starts, and they have a pleasant journey at first. Gandalf leaves them alone one evening, and they see firelight in the distance. Bilbo is sent to investigate, and through his ineptness, is caught by trolls. When the dwarves try to rescue him, they are caught as well. The trolls are going to eat them, but begin to argue about the way to cook them. They argue until the sun rises, and the trolls turn to stone, for it is Gandalf who keeps them arguing. They explore the next day and find the foul lair of the trolls. There are treasures and weapons inside. Gandalf and Thorin take swords and Bilbo a knife long enough to be a short sword for him. They bury the rest of the treasure and start off again.
Chapter 3: A Short Rest
Chapter 4: over hill and under hill, chapter 5: riddles in the dark, chapter 6: out of the frying pan, into the fire.
Bilbo wanders around outside and eventually finds the dwarves and Gandalf. He sneaks into camp, invisible, and shows himself. They welcome him gladly, but he doesn’t mention the ring. They are on the far side of the mountains now and go down the mountainside as fast as they can, afraid of pursuit. At nightfall, goblins come out and chase them, with the help of Wargs; the evil wolves. They are trapped in a clearing, and climb trees, except for Bilbo, who cannot reach. Dori boosts Bilbo into a tree as the Wargs attack, and barely reaches safety himself. The goblins start fires around the five trees, and as the trees catch fire they sing and taunt them. When all seems lost, eagles fly down from the sky and carry them off. Bilbo is overlooked, but is carried along holding tightly to Dori’s legs.
Chapter 7: Queer Lodgings
Chapter 8: flies and spiders.
The forest is disturbing and they sense that they are being watched as they walk. They travel on the path for days, eventually using all their provisions and water. Despite Beorn’s warnings, the hungry dwarves leave the path, wandering hopelessly looking for food. They try to crash the feasts of the woodland elves and get even more lost. Giant spiders catch the dwarves in webs, and they are hung up like clothes on a clothesline. Bilbo, alone, finds out that he has the capability to rescues the dwarves with ingenuity; the help of his magic ring, and his little sword, which he names Sting. The starving dwarves are rescued from the spiders and then see another feast. They are taken captive again, by the elves this time. Invisible, Bilbo follows them. At the last moment, as the doors are closing behind them, Bilbo dashes after them into the underground palace of the elven king.
Chapter 9: Barrels out of Bond
Chapter 10: a warm welcome.
The barrels float down the river toward Lake-Town, piloted by elves. When they pull the barrows out of the current and settle to sleep, Bilbo opens the barrels under cover of night releasing half-drowned dwarves. The elves bring the barrels to Long Lake, followed by the dwarves. They reveal themselves to the Master of Lake-Town at a feast, and are welcomed; although, the elven river men exclaim they are escaped vagabonds. Bilbo has a terrible cold. The Lake men welcome them, for their tales fits prophecies of deliverance from the dragon. Eventually Thorin tells the Master they must go on to the Lonely Mountain, to his surprise, because he thought them to be imposters. He gives them supplies and ponies and they travel toward the mountain.
Chapter 11: On the Doorstep
Chapter 12: inside information.
The dwarves turn to Bilbo to fulfill his role as burglar. Bilbo ventures inside, putting on the ring. He has changed in many ways since leaving the Shire, but taking the final steps down the path are the hardest thing he has ever done. He sees the sleeping dragon and steals a gold cup, taking it back to the dwarves. Smaug wakes and realizes he was robbed. While Bilbo and the dwarves cower just inside the passage, Smaug flames the mountainside and their camp, eating their ponies. Bilbo goes back down the passageway and talks with the dragon, telling him riddles but not his name. Smaug tries to make him uncertain of how the dwarves will treat him. He postures, and Bilbo sees an unprotected spot on Smaug’s chest. He taunts Smaug somewhat and the dragon roars flames after him when he runs. When Bilbo reaches the top, he tells the dwarves they need to hide inside the passage and shut the door, for the dragon is angry. They close the door part way and huddle inside, talking of the treasure Bilbo described. They remember tales told of the treasure, including the Arkenstone - a giant white gem found at the heart of the mountain. Nervous, Bilbo is sure that Smaug will emerge and hunt them all. He persuades them just in time, and they shut the door as Smaug wrecks the mountainside. Smaug then flies off to punish Lake-Town.
Chapter 13: Not at Home
The dwarves wait inside the door in the dark for Smaug’s return, but hear nothing. When they try the door, the rock has been shattered and broken - there is no hope of escape that way. After some time passes, Bilbo says they should go down the passage way after him, and they all venture down the passage way to the dragon’s lair. Bilbo goes a little ahead, trips, and calls out, but Smaug is not there. He calls for light, and the dwarves, who are waiting a little way back send for their torches. Bilbo takes one and ventures into the cavernous lair. The dwarves see the little light climbing as Bilbo clambers up the pile of treasure. At the top, he pauses a moment and moves onward. Though the dwarves don’t realize, he sees the Arkenstone, and is enchanted by it. He picks up the huge gem, tucks it into his deepest pocket, and tells himself he is really a burglar, Although the dwarves have told him he can pick his own share, he is sure they did not mean the Arkenstone. He goes on without seeing any sign of Smaug, and after a stumble where his torch goes out, the dwarves venture out to bring a torch to him and explore the heap of treasure. Lust for gold makes brave the dwarves’ hearts, and they wander boldly through the treasure. Some arm themselves and then put treasure in their pockets, while Fili and Kili play enchanted harps. Bilbo is given a coat of mail made for a young elf prince, long ago. Thorin looks for the Arkenstone, although he doesn’t say so. The treasure bewitches them, Bilbo eventually calls them to leave the treasure and find a way to escape from the mountain, for they do not know when Smaug will return. They make their way to the front gate, and stand in the breeze, but see no sign of Smaug. Balin tells them of an old lookout post. There they camp, and look again for the dragon. He cannot be seen, but they do notice many birds gathering in the South.
Chapter 14: Fire and Water
Chapter 15: the gathering of the clouds.
Bard comes out of the lake as people morn his death, and they acclaim him, but he chooses to work with the current Master of the town to deal with all the destruction. They assume the dwarves are dead, and he thinks about the dragon’s hoard of gold as do many others in the town. Word of the dragon’s death spreads rapidly carried by birds. The elf king hears of it, and gathers an army to march to the mountain. Word goes to the goblins of the Misty Mountains, the Eagles, and Beorn. Bard sends word to the elf king about the plight of Lake-Town, for the town is friendly with the elves. The elf king is good-hearted, and turns aside from the straight path to the Lonely Mountain, sending ahead many supplies to the homeless. The dwarves are in doubt about what has happened for some time, but the ravens and the thrush communicate what has happened to Smaug, telling them that many people are on their way to the mountain. The dwarves are filled with rage, for the lust for gold is very strong. They begin to fortify the front gate to the mountain hall. The raven counsels’ peace and sharing the gold, but Thorin is adamant that the treasure belongs to the dwarves. He sends the raven to ask his cousin Dain for help in defending the mountain. Thorin also intensifies the search for the Arkenstone. When a delegation come to the mountain and finds the wall the dwarves have built, they try to parley, but Thorin will not listen, although Bard reminds him the Lake people helped him in his time of need. The delegation requests that Thorin give one twelfth of the share of the dragon’s treasure to Bard, as the heir of the ruler of Dale and slayer of the dragon, but Thorin fires an arrow and declares the mountain besieged.
Chapter 16: A Thief in the Night
Bilbo is deeply disturbed by the dwarves’ behavior. He does not feel the same lust for the treasure. The dwarves are looking everywhere for the Arkenstone – which is hidden in a bundle Bilbo used as a pillow. The ravens tell the dwarves that Dain is near, with an army of dwarves, and again counsel peace with the men and elves. Thorin rejects the idea. Bilbo gets the start of an idea. When Dain comes close to the mountain, he persuades the dwarf watching at the gate that night to let him take his place. When he leaves, he climbs down carrying the Arkenstone. He goes to the tent of the leaders. Elves seize him, and he tells them to bring him to Bard, if they want the siege to end. Bard and the elven king greet him, and he shows them the letter from Thorin promising him one fourteenth of the profits of the adventure. He tells them Thorin Oakenshield would rather sit on a heap of gold and starve than share. Bard says let him starve, but Bilbo tells them about Dain. They ask if he is trying to betray the dwarves, but he explains he has thought of a way to end the siege without bloodshed and shows them the Arkenstone. He gives it to them, telling them it is the heart of the mountain and of Thorin, and that they can consider it Bilbo’s share of the treasure, and use it to bargain with Thorin. He refuses to stay in the camp, and returns to the dwarves. As he is leaving Gandalf greets him and praises his action. Bilbo returns to the wall, and wakes the dwarf whose place he took when the watch is over. He goes to sleep worrying about what will happen.
Chapter 17: The Clouds Burst
Chapter 18: the return journey.
Bilbo wakes to find the battle is over. Invisibility might have saved his life, but it also ensured a cold uncomfortable night. When he is found at dawn, he learns a little about the end of the battle, and is taken to see Thorin Oakenshield. Thorin is dying, and his nephews Fili and Kili were killed trying to defend him. Thorin tells him he repents of his harsh words before the battle. He tells Bilbo the world would be better if more cared for food and cheer above gold. Bilbo is sad, telling him he is glad to have shared in his adventure. Bilbo learns about the battle, and how even after the eagles came into the battle, the battle was not going well, because there were many more goblins and wolves than those fighting against them. When all seems lost, Beorn appears in the shape of a bear. He rescues Thorin, and then kills the chief of the goblins. The goblins lose heart and flee and are pursued and killed. Thorin is buried with the Arkenstone. The living dwarves remain with Dain, who becomes King under the Mountain. Bilbo bids them farewell, taking only as much treasure as they could fit on the back of a pony. Bilbo and Gandalf travel with the elven king to Mirkwood, where Bilbo gives the king a necklace in return for his inadvertent hospitality. He and Gandalf have adventures on the way home, but they are never in great danger. They stop and visit with Beorn and stay there for Yuletide. Beorn goes on to become chief of the surrounding area, and his descendants inherit his ability to skin change. They leave when spring comes, for Bilbo is growing homesick – the Tookish part of him is weary.
Chapter 19: The Last Stage
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The Hobbit, or, There and Back Again Summary
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Bilbo Baggins lives in a beautiful hole under The Hill, where he's a respected (and rather rich) pillar of the hobbit community. Hobbits, by the way, are small people with furry toes and big bellies. They like beer and jokes and generally making merry. They believe in hanging out and not making too much trouble. But even though Bilbo has spent his whole life living contently under The Hill, an adventure comes to his doorstep and takes him far away anyway. It just so happens that Bilbo is sitting on his front stoop when Gandalf, a wizard, walks by. Bilbo invites Gandalf to come back for tea on Wednesday and then completely forgets the whole thing. On Wednesday at four, he hears the doorbell ring and thinks it's Gandalf – but it's actually thirteen dwarves: Thorin, Dori, Nori, Ori, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Oin, Gloin, Balin, Dwalin, Fili, and Kili. On Gandalf's recommendation, the chief dwarf, Thorin, has a job offer for Bilbo. Thorin is the grandson of Thror, the dwarf who was King under the Lonely Mountain. Many years before, the evil dragon Smaug came and killed many of Thror's people and stole his treasure. Thorin wants to steal the treasure back from Smaug, and he wants Bilbo (who's evidently an expert burglar) to help him do it. Now, obviously, Bilbo is not an expert burglar. But he is so proud that Gandalf thinks so highly of him that he winds up agreeing to join Thorin & Co. The thirteen dwarves, plus Bilbo and Gandalf, travel through the wilds to Rivendell, where they meet up with Elrond, a half-elf lord. Elrond shows Thorin & Co. some special hidden letters on Thorin's map of the Lonely Mountain. The letters (which are only visible at the right phase of the moon) say that the tiny, secret side door into the Lonely Mountain will only open on Durin's Day, the last day of autumn. So the dwarves decide to get a move on so that they can reach the Lonely Mountain in time. On their way east, they must cross the Misty Mountain range. There, a bunch of goblins take them captive. Gandalf kills the Great Goblin and rescues all the dwarves. However, Bilbo gets separated from the group. As he makes his way as quietly as he can through the goblin halls, he happens to find a small golden ring in the dark. He puts the ring in his pocket and forgets about it. Bilbo walks right into an underground lake. On an island in the middle of the lake is a small, slimy creature named Gollum. Gollum has been living under the mountain and dodging goblins for a long, long time. The one thing that makes his life bearable is his "birthday present" (5.78) – a golden ring that makes him invisible. And yes, that's the very same ring Bilbo has just found in the dark. Gollum isn't hungry (yet), but he's not about to let Bilbo go past without a murmur. So Gollum challenges Bilbo to a game of riddles. If Bilbo wins, Gollum will show him the way out of the goblins' kingdom. If Gollum wins, Gollum gets to eat Bilbo. (No thank you.) Bilbo manages to win (barely), but Gollum still tries to kill him anyway. Luckily, Bilbo slips on the ring in his pocket by accident and becomes invisible. Gollum assumes that Bilbo is running out of the tunnels to the exit, so he quickly makes his way through the goblin kingdom. Bilbo follows Gollum with his ring of invisibility on. When they reach the exit, Bilbo leaps over Gollum and makes a break for the exit. He comes out on the other side of the Misty Mountains. Victory! Bilbo hears voices nearby and rejoins his friends. Gandalf, Bilbo, and the dwarves are almost killed once more by vengeful goblins coming out of the mountains, but they escape just in time. Bilbo, Gandalf, and the dwarves seek shelter with a giant man, Beorn, who can take the shape of a bear. Beorn hates goblins, so he welcomes any goblin enemies to his home. Beorn gives Bilbo and the dwarves provisions to take them through the next stage of their journey: the giant forest of Mirkwood. Gandalf leaves Bilbo and the dwarves behind as they enter Mirkwood. He has business elsewhere. But Gandalf warns them under no circumstances to leave the path and go into the forest. Of course, as they run out of food, they wind up doing just that. As they stray from the path, they stumble onto the feasts of the Wood-elves and Thorin gets taken prisoner while the rest of the dwarves scatter into the forest. The rest of the dwarves (and Bilbo) get attacked by giant spiders. With his ring of invisibility and a knife, Bilbo manages to free himself and the dwarves. But the dwarves are then taken prisoner by the Wood-elves. So Bilbo quickly accompanies them to the Elvenking's dungeon, again while wearing his invisibility ring. As the dwarves sit in their thirteen separate cells, Bilbo manages to spy a way to escape. One night when all the elves are busy with a large feast, he frees the dwarves and packs them into barrels being taken to Lake-town. The dwarves arrive in secret in Lake-town, the nearest city to the Lonely Mountain. Bilbo and the dwarves get assistance from the Master of Lake-town to travel to the Lonely Mountain. They settle down in front of the side door marked on Thorin's map. At last, Durin's Day comes and the door suddenly reveals a keyhole. Thorin uses his key to unlock the side door and open a tunnel into the heart of the Lonely Mountain. Bilbo uses this passage to creep down and steal a golden cup from Smaug the dragon. Bilbo also has a bit of a chat with the dragon (who can't see him, thanks to the handy ring), which is unnerving. Bilbo catches a glimpse of a bare patch of scales in Smaug's chest, which he realizes is the dragon's weak point. Bilbo tells the dwarves about this weak spot; luckily, a bird that will come into the story later hears this news as well. Smaug, finding this one golden cup missing from his hoard of treasure, flies out to Lake-town in a rage. He wants to remind them all that he's the true King under the Mountain. But there is an archer in Lake-town, a descendant of lords of the town of Dale, which Smaug destroyed. The bird that has been keeping an eye on Bilbo and the dwarves flies over to Lake-town and finds this archer, Bard. It's the special skill of Bard's family to be able to understand this kind of bird. So when the bird tells him about the weak spot on Smaug's chest that Bilbo has discovered, Bard takes his great bow and his strongest arrow and waits until the dragon is flying right over Lake-town. He takes aim and shoots Smaug in the chest at just the right spot, and Smaug is killed. Meanwhile, back under the mountain, Bilbo and the dwarves wait a while to see if Smaug is going to reappear. When he doesn't, Bilbo creeps down to his treasure. One of the first things Bilbo finds is a giant diamond, the Arkenstone of Thrain. This is a family heirloom that Thorin desperately wants. But Bilbo keeps it a secret from Thorin – he doesn't know exactly why, but he'll go with the hunch. Tidings are spreading all over the place that Smaug has been killed. The Elvenking of Mirkwood comes with his armies in the hopes of grabbing some treasure; Bard also leads an army of men from Lake-town seeking money to rebuild their town and his own city of Dale. But, even though Bard is the one who killed Smaug and the Elvenking is Bard's friend, Thorin absolutely refuses to give them any share of the treasure. Thorin sends for his cousin Dain and some dwarvish troops to stand by his side. So it looks like they're going to come to war over Smaug's old treasure. Bilbo wants to prevent this war and save his friends, so by cover of night, he brings the Arkenstone down to the camp of the humans and the elves. He gives it to Bard so that Bard can use it to negotiate with Thorin. But before negotiations between the humans, elves, and dwarves can continue, Gandalf suddenly appears with terrible news. While they have all been caught up with each other, the goblins of the Misty Mountains have been banding with the evil wolves (the Wargs) of the wild to march against all of them. So, suddenly, the humans, elves, and dwarves who had been about to go to war against one another band together against the goblins and the Wargs. They barely manage to win, but they come out on top thanks to the help of a group of giant eagles and the sudden appearance of Beorn the bear-man. Thorin is horribly wounded in battle, and his last wish is to befriend Bilbo once more. He realizes that Bilbo was only trying to help, and after all, what is gold truly worth when you can't take it with you? Bilbo weeps at Thorin's death, and feels just about ready to go home. So Gandalf escorts Bilbo back to his old home under The Hill with a portion of the treasure and loads of respect from men, elves, and dwarves for his courage and resourcefulness.
- Good vs. Evil
- Cunning and Cleverness
- Bilbo Baggins
- Thorin Oakenshield
- Thorin's Company
- Fili and Kili
- The Trolls: Bert, Tom, and Bill
- The Great Goblin
- The Lord of the Eagles
- King of the Wood-elves
- The Master of Lake-town
- Roäc son of Carc
- The Necromancer
- What's Up With the Title?
- What's Up With the Ending?
- Symbols, Imagery, Allegory
- POV/Narrative Voice
- For Teachers
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The Hobbit - Chapter Summaries
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by J.R.R. Tolkien
The hobbit summary and analysis of chapters 1-4.
Chapter 1: An Unexpected Party
Bilbo Baggins is a peaceful and domestic hobbit who enjoys living in his cozy hole in The Hill. His life is quite wonderful by hobbits' standards, which is to say, there is no excitement and there are plenty of meals each day. Bilbo is the only son of Belladonna Took and the Tooks are a wealthy family but Belladonna and a few of the others had adventurous streaks and they were not nearly as respectable as the Bagginses. In this story, Bilbo is going to lose his respectability on a rather wild adventure.
One of Belladonna's old friends is a wizard by the name of Gandalf and though he has no official business in Hobbiton (the place where Hobbits live), Gandalf makes an appearance at Bilbo's house. The two really don't get on well at the beginning, as Gandalf is a stranger and strangers are adventurous and not very respectable. When Gandalf reveals his identity, Bilbo is politer and goes as far as to invite Gandalf to tea in a few days. Bilbo has a memory of Gandalf setting fireworks and it does seem that his off-handed treatment of the wizard is pardonable.
Gandalf is always plotting something and he usually knows more than those around him know. Bilbo plans to have tea with Gandalf on Wednesday but Gandalf transforms the tea into an organizational meeting for an adventure in which Bilbo is to play the central role as a professional thief. Of course, Bilbo is not interested in this and he has no experience, but Gandalf has brought twelve dwarves to the tea and the company disregard's Bilbo's protests. They also do a good job of eating all of the food in the hobbit's house.
The adventure surrounds an old dwarf-map that depicts a mountain, in which a dragon named Smaug lives. Smaug has stolen hordes of treasure and these hordes must be reclaimed. It is up to Bilbo Baggins to find a way to sneak into the mountain. Of course, there is an incredibly dangerous terrain separating Hobbiton from Smaug's mountain and this is most of the challenge. The head of the assembled dwarves is Thorin and he is eager to reclaim the lost glories of his race. When Bilbo finally heads to bed, he is not at all pleased with the formidable challenge that stands before him.
Tolkien does not waste anytime introducing us to the world of his fiction, Middle Earth. Dwarves and hobbits are only a few of the many types of creatures that are encountered. Gandalf, the wizard, is a major character in The Hobbit as well as in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. His intentions are rarely manifest though this secretive aspect does not really make him a negative character. Instead, his characterization is positive; he is a guardian and symbol of wisdom. Bilbo is a wonderful contrast to Gandalf and Thorin, the more extroverted of the dwarves. Well before the end of the novel, Bilbo Baggins will prove himself to be an able adventurer but in this chapter Bilbo's joys are all images of domesticity and peace. There will be no tea, little food and hardly a good night's rest on the road and while Bilbo isn't in any danger yet, his discomfort is certainly foreshadowed here.
The characterization of Bilbo Baggins is more complex than the others, as Bilbo is the main character of the novel. The most important thing to notice here is the juxtaposition of Baggins-like Hobbit-style respectability and Took-ish disregard for convention in favor of adventure. Of course, Bilbo will end up more like his mother, Belladonna Took, but even as "belladonna" means beautiful (woman) it is also a name for a poison. Smaug's stolen treasure is another image that commingles beauty and death. Finally, no quest is complete without a destination and treasure in mind and this story borrows on the old motif of the treasure-map and the lost-and-found key. Maps and keys are guides, sources of direction and very convenient. On a thematic level, we will find that discussions of maps and keys bring the ideas of wisdom, natural and acquired talent to the table. Bilbo and Thorin will give us ample data to test hypotheses on whether heroes are born, self-made or both. Finally, we can expect fate to loom as consistently as foreshadowing, which is to sayall the time. This voyage is the fulfillment of ancient prophecy but that does not mean it is destined for complete success.
Chapter 2: Roast Mutton
When Bilbo wakes up late in the morning, his guests have already departed. He thinks that he has escaped the adventure, but Gandalf enters the scene and explains the dwarves have left a note for Bilbo and they are waiting for him at the Green Dragon Inn. Bilbo is forced to rush to the Green Dragon and he arrives at exactly 11 AM, the appointed hour. He has not had time to collect the things he would bring with him, but there is no time for him to turn around. The company travels into a region called the Lone-lands and it is not long before Bilbo has traveled far beyond his previous limits. He already wishes that he was at home, warming himself by the fire and drinking tea and the torrential downpour is not helping his mood.
The group is not as organized as they should be; they only notice Gandalf's absence well after he has departed and they cannot start a fire to cook dinneron account of the rain and wet. The two youngest dwarves, Fili and Kili , are nearly drowned when one of the ponies is frightened and nearly loses himself in the river.
They spot a light in the distance and since Bilbo is the burglar of the group it is his job to go and investigate the scene. Arriving at the fire, Bilbo discovers three trolls who are roasting mutton on spits. They are, of course, significantly larger than Bilbo and summoning his nerves, Bilbo decides to live up to his profession by pick-pocketing. Bilbo reaches for the troll's purse but the bag squeaks: "Ere, oo are you?" and of course, the troll seizes Bilbo. The three trolls, Bert, William and Tom are discussing exactly what a hobbit is and whether Bilbo is worth eatingand if so, how should he be prepared?
The trolls argue over Bilbo's fate and when they are physically engaged with one another, Bilbo escapes though not without bruises. Unfortunately, the scene does not end here because the dwarves grew impatient while waiting for Bilbo and, hearing the trolls' noises, decided to approach the fire. Trolls hate the sight of dwarves and the appearance of Balin sets Tom and the other trolls on a rampage. It is not long before all twelve of the dwarves are held in sacks and the trolls are contemplating another dinner. Gandalf rescues the dwarves with an invisible appearance. He periodically interrupts the trolls' conversation, saying false statements in voices that resemble the trolls' voices. Bert, William and Tom each conclude that the other two are lying and/or mad and of course, they engage in more physical brutality, whacking each other in the head and arguing until dawn is suddenly upon them and they turn into rocks.
Gandalf is pleased with his performance and he releases the dwarves. Bilbo had stolen a key that fell from one of the troll's pockets and the group is able to find the trolls' lair and make good use of their provisions.
In terms of narrative structure, this chapter provides a comic interlude as the trolls' ignorance really prevents them from becoming formidable. Still, the chapter shows the steady evolution of Bilbo into a hero; this germination is already in progress. The key motif is reiterated here as the object and symbol of Bilbo's success. Like Gandalf, Bilbo relies upon his intelligence and stealth and as the story continues, expect to see Bilbo stealing all sorts of things from strangers and from his enemies. The characterization of Bert, Tom and William is poignant because these trolls are rather like humans at their worst. One does have to wonder how trolls get named William in a story that has dwarves named Bomfur...
A recurring motif that is certainly connected to the key and map is that of the cave/lair of the villain. Bilbo and the group do some very good work here, enjoying the spoliation of their defeated enemy. Several of the novel's scenes, involving caves and lairs, are allusions to one of two classical scenes. Here, we find references to the Homeric epic, The Odyssey . Bilbo, like Ulysses becomes known for his excessive craft and trickery. Here, the deaf trolls are like the blinded Cyclops in the classic. The "mutton" image is also a bit of poignant residue from the Homeric tale and in archetypal fashion, the "dawn" is a symbol of victory over the night, survival and hope for a new day. The "Cyclops" allusion is not intense but should be identified, as it recurs in alternation with references to the Anglo-Saxon epic, Beowulf. Finally, the stone trolls are symbols of the ignorance of the trolls who were alive but stone-deaf.
In regards to the central themes: heroism, wisdom and nobility we can add the complexities of a noble thief: is this an oxymoron? And in terms of heroes it is ironic that the dwarves were sacked after rather timidly relegating the dirty-work to Bilbo. Do not expect this to change. As far as character-development goes, Bilbo is the central focus. He is growing into Gandalf's glowing pronouncement and the dwarves arefor now, at leastbeing themselves. Even as he sheds respectability, Bilbo seems so hyper-civilized, proto-human and (dare we say) British. "Tea" and the forgotten "handkerchief" might make Bilbo seem like a reference to Lewis Carroll's White Rabbit, jumping in and out of hiding holes. Both fantasy writers (Carroll and Tolkien) were drawing upon well-established traditions of British domesticity and this adds a little weight and a bit of a real-world perspective to Bilbo's reveries of the hearth and forgotten articles. From this point until the end of Chapter 17, one of the most important words that we can associate with Bilbo is "nostalgia;" thematically, this is all-important. It is part of Tolkien's personal life and a necessary component of stories that are in this genre, literary epic quests. As a literary device, nostalgia certainly helps to shore up and establish Tolkien's Middle Earth while it is new and susceptible to easy disbelief. Finally, nostalgia dominates Bilbo's thoughts and Bilbo's thoughtsas you will find, if you read carefullysustain the somber mood that balances the comic burlesque of the clownish trolls. Who'd have expected gravitas from the hobbit?
Chapter 3: A Short Rest
The dwarves are not singing; they are glad to be alive and also, the respite from the rain is an improvement on the previous situation. Still, they are not singing because danger seems (and is) omnipresent in these parts. Bilbo and the dwarves ford a river and take their ponies onto a path from which they can see mountains in the distance. Gandalf leads the way and warns strict adherence to the road. They are heading for the residence of Elrond which is called the "Last Homely House" in the "fair valley of Rivendell." This House is the last one west of the Mountains.
There is a good deal of traveling over ravines and through bogs before the travelers make their way into the "secret valley of Rivendell" and their spirits immediately begin to rise. Bilbo smells elves and it is not long before the sounds of the elves' songs are emanating through the scene. The tired journeyers are only too happy to get some rest, though there is a history of unpleasantness between the dwarves and the elves that must be intentionally disregarded.
Inside Elrond's house, Bilbo is able to fatten himself on cakes and as long as the group stayed, Bilbo would have been happy to remain a little longer. Elrond is an old soul who has elves and "heroes of the North" as ancestors and he offers a good amount of insight regarding the quest. The group is to leave with "the early sun on midsummer morning" and when they are to leave, Elrond offers them swords of protection. One is called Orcrist, the Goblin-cleaver and another is called Glamdring, Foehammer. They are presented to Thorin and Gandalf, respectively. Looking at the map in the moonlight, Elrond is able to read moon-letters, distinct from the runes printed on the map. These words specify that the secret entrance to the Mountain can be unlocked on Durin's Day, which is the first day of the dwarves' New Year at the crux between Autumn and Winter.
The travelers are well-rested when they leave but they fear that their timing, by the calendar, is horribly unlucky.
In "A Short Rest" we get a host of archetypal images all in a jumble, most of them dreary and threatening. Mountains are symbols of stability and strength when they are under you, but when they loom over you they become the visual images of your obstacles. And of course, the mountains are obstacles, but they provoke psychological effects well before they are navigationally relevant. Nature can get animated in Tolkien's literature and the fear that "danger was not far away on either side" is strengthened by the possibility of natural elements becoming characters that play the villains' roles. Just as a map reveals the future by charting a course to a destination, the names of these locales foreshadow the misery ahead. The "Misty Mountains" are softened by the alliteration (there are worse mountains) but "misty" suggests blindness and this is not desirable.
Names and sounds are important in The Hobbit and Tolkien put great care into the phonics of Middle Earth (He was, after all, a master linguist, classicist and philologist). The dragon, "Smaug," pre-dates our word "smog" but considering the visual similarity between the two (smoke and smoky pollution) it seems likely that Tolkien has extracted his name from the same source as our word. It is important that the elves' song erupts towards the end of the chapter because it produces a positive literary tone by making a euphonious and harmonic musical tone.
Finally, we can look at the clear contrast between the mood of Rivendell and the foreshadowed despondency in the chapter's final lines. It is worth noting that Elrond and Rivendell re-appear in the Lord of the Rings trilogy but here, they seem to occupy a sort of static Paradise, not unlike the Elysian fields of Greek mythology. As a way-station, the house offers temporary rest but the very fact of midsummer, in archetypal terms, offers us as much life and light as the earth will bear. Midsummer in Rivendell is as strong a symbolic heaven/Paradise as we will find in Tolkien's work. The foul names of the swords, if they foreshadow anything, assure us that battles and goblins are forthcoming.
Chapter 4: Over Hill and Under Hill
Elrond and Gandalf help Bilbo and the dwarves navigate their way into the mountains and this is difficult because there are many deceitful routes and paths that only end in destruction. Especially during the cold nights when there is pitch-black silence, Bilbo remembers his hobbit-hole and he thinks about the activities that are in progress. The "high hope of a midsummer morning" drops and sinks as the group travels on the incline, higher and higher. Eventually the younger members of the group are sent to find a cave where the group can sleep for the evening.
As everyone is sleeping inside of the cave, Bilbo is unable to sleep because of a nightmare that becomes reality: the cave is occupied by goblins and Bilbo's yell is able to alert Gandalf, who disappears. Bilbo and the dwarves are captured, though, They are carried "down, down to Goblin-town" and the sounds are unpleasant. They are taken to a big fire-lit cavern and the Great Goblin demands to know their business. The dwarves are suspected as spies and allies of the elves. Great Goblin wants to know what brought the dwarves to his territory and Thorin explains that they are going to see relatives on the East side of the mountains. Other goblins say that a bolt of lightning struck some of their comrades and Thorin's sword is also indicative of his anti-Goblin intentions. The sword is called Orcrist, Goblin-cleaver, but the Goblins call it Biter.
Great Goblin rushes towards Thorin but the lights go out and white sparks begin to burst, burning holes in the goblins. A sword flashes and kills the Great Goblin, and then a voice says "follow me quick." Bilbo and the others follow Gandalf but he Goblins are in close pursuit and Dori is grabbed from behind. Bilbo falls into blackness, bumps his head on a hard rock and remembers nothing more.
This short chapter is important in developing several themes and motifs that recur in Tolkien's work. First, there is the image of the "cave," considered in terms of the theme of shelter. As the final destination of the travelers is a cave that is inhabited by the dragon Smaug, it does seem foolish for the young dwarf to select any cave as a safe resting place. Caves aren't safe. The old myth of Ulysses and Polyphemus offers images of caves, the hope for shelter and the reality of capitvity. This is an allusion that often appears in the novel. The caves harbor all sorts of things that are unknown because of the cave's darkness. This is explicated in the metaphors that liken the cave-dwelling goblins to weasels and bats. Also, the swords that are called Biter and Beater are archetypal lights that destroy the archetypal darkness of evil.
In terms of characterization, we see Thorin's gallantry and leadership and also Gandalf's shrewd manipulation and navigation in the darkness. He relies upon a sort of invisibility that becomes powerful. Readers should look to the next chapters to see Bilbo's own emergence as a hero, foreshadowed by the gift received by Thorin and the invisibility used by Gandalf. By now, we can see that there are several motifs in the word that can be considered as juxtapositions, in that they are pairs of contrasts, and this is not always the case. We see consciousness/unconsciousness, light/dark, invisibility/surveillance. Bilbo's waking nightmares are actual herald's of doom and Biblo hits his head on a rock at the chapter's cliffhanger end.
This narrative structure is so precise and Chapter 5 (entitled "Riddles in the Dark") should be read with close attention to consciousness/unconsciousness, invisibility/surveillance, and riddles/knowledge.
Another motif is a parallel to consciousness/unconsciousness, which is light/dark. It is more than the archetypal good/evil dichotomy in this chapter and it is an integral part of the plot-action. Light and dark are active in terms of knowledge, the hidden unknown, invisibility and surveillance (we might consider them as good and evil forces or perhaps, characters even).
The darkness of the caves makes both capture and escape possible. Invisibility will become permanently important in The Hobbit and in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Light, a symbol of goof, becomes festive "sparks" that are deadly, and a flash of light is a blade that illuminates and kills the Great Goblinall the while, Gandalf, the killer, remains hidden. Light and dark can be used for good and evil purposes, and in constructive and destructive means. The interrelationships of light and dark are not so simple, then.
The swords are historical and usable, treasured artifacts and hated weapons, illuminating and murderous, forged yet magicalmulti-named , as it were. So we should not be surprised to see the sword as a symbol of unity (it is the heart of the juxtaposition between light and dark: murderous sparks). Keep in mind that the motif of ancestral and legacy gifts often includes swords, jewels and rings. We will find plenty of this in The Hobbit, further binding it to the genre of old Norse and Anglo-Saxon epic mythology (consider King Arthur and his sword "Excalibur" as a most common example).
Finally, we shift our focus from swords to caves. Looking ahead to Chapters 5, what we have foreshadowed should lead us to think about these places as actual spaces: with or without a Biter or a Beater, the dark and circuitous (winding and twisting) attributes of the enclosing space are all-important. How useful are the swords in broad daylight? Why doesn't Gandalf's "magic wand" of light prevent Bilbo from trailing, banging his head and getting knocked out? The importance of the terrain is precisely what will allow Bilbo, armed with a relatively puny sword and stock of bravery, to emerge as a hero: he will be able to navigate the full terrain of rivers, lakes, mountains, bridges, castles, wombs and tombs that are encompassed within the system of caves.
The Hobbit Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Hobbit is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
I think this is Thorin who says this.
What two items did Bilbo forget in his rush to meet the dwarves
Bilbo forgets his hat and handkerchief . By forgetting these items he is leaving his hobbit respectability behind when he joins the dwarves on their adventure.
Chapter 10, A Warm Welcome
From the text:
Its nearest neighbours to the North-East and the tumbled land that joined it to them could not be seen. All alone it rose and looked across the marshes to the forest. The Lonely Mountain! Bilbo had come far and through many...
Study Guide for The Hobbit
The Hobbit study guide contains a biography of J.R.R. Tolkien, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.
- About The Hobbit
- The Hobbit Summary
- Character List
- Chapters 1-4 Summary and Analysis
Essays for The Hobbit
The Hobbit essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.
- Tolkien's Hobbit: From Children's Story to Mythic Creation
- Heroes and the Hobbit
- Sting and Bilbo: Significance of the Small in The Hobbit
- Archetypes of Englishness in The Hobbit and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
- The Impact of Setting in The Hobbit
Lesson Plan for The Hobbit
- About the Author
- Study Objectives
- Common Core Standards
- Introduction to The Hobbit
- Relationship to Other Books
- Bringing in Technology
- Notes to the Teacher
- Related Links
- The Hobbit Bibliography
Wikipedia Entries for The Hobbit
- Concept and creation
Write a chapter summary by first reading the chapter to determine the most salient and important points. By making an outline, it allows for easy organization. Depending on the material and word count, writing a chapter summary may require ...
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Bilbo encounters old Gollum, a slimy, murderous creature who kills and eats Goblins and others who stray into the cave. They exchange riddles, and Gollum
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Exploring The Hobbit · Chapter 1: An Unexpected Party · Chapter 2: Roast Mutton · Chapter 3: A Short Rest · Chapter 4: Over Hill and Under Hill
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Chapter 1 introduces the Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, and explains the Hobbits' way of life. Then, Bilbo meets Gandalf, who invites him to go on an
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The Hobbit: Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis · The narrator begins by describing the hole in the ground beneath a hill, in which a particular hobbit lives. · The
Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who lives a quiet life, until it is upset by a visit from a wizard named Gandalf. He wants Bilbo to help a group of dwarves take
Chapter One: "An Unexpected Party" · Chapter 2: "Roast Mutton" · Chapter 3: "A Short Rest" · Chapter 4: "Over Hill and Under Hill" · Chapter 5: "Riddles in the Dark&nb...
His life is quite wonderful by hobbits' standards, which is to say, there is no excitement and there are plenty of meals each day. Bilbo is the